Understanding Pregnancy Ultrasounds

A pregnancy ultrasound is a test that uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images your healthcare providers can view on a computer monitor to give them information about your pregnancy. You might be wondering why a pregnancy ultrasound is necessary if you have not yet made a decision about your unexpected pregnancy. Ultrasound is beneficial because the images provide your medical team with important data, and this knowledge can give you the facts you need to make an informed decision about your pregnancy.

Types of Pregnancy Ultrasounds

Pregnancy ultrasounds include transabdominal, transvaginal, Level 2, 3D, doppler, and fetal echocardiography ultrasounds.

After a positive pregnancy test, you will likely receive:

Transabdominal ultrasound

Gel is placed on your abdomen, and a roller-like device (transducer) is moved over the gel on your abdomen. The transducer picks up soundwaves that produce images onto a computer screen.

Transvaginal ultrasound

A special, smaller transducer probe is lubricated with gel and gently placed into your vagina to obtain images. Transvaginal ultrasound is used primarily in early pregnancy.

Ways a Pregnancy Ultrasound Is Useful

To Determine Pregnancy Viability

Even if you have already decided upon abortion, you will need to know if your pregnancy is viable. A positive pregnancy test result tells you that the hCG pregnancy hormone was detected in your urine. However, it does not mean you have a viable pregnancy.

According to the March of Dimes, as many as half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage: 80% of those occur in the first trimester — or the first twelve weeks. So, after a positive pregnancy test result, you will need to confirm your pregnancy is viable by ultrasound. A viable pregnancy is one that is expected to continue and result in childbirth (if no other steps are taken).

If no fetal heartbeat is detected, you would not need an abortion but would be referred for medical treatment instead.

The location of your pregnancy also impacts viability. If your healthcare provider detects a heartbeat by ultrasound, but the pregnancy is located outside of your uterus (i.e., in the fallopian tube), your pregnancy is also not viable. An ectopic pregnancy, a pregnancy implanted in the fallopian tube, is a medical emergency and requires immediate intervention.

The fetal heart rate also impacts the viability of your pregnancy. Research reveals that if an ultrasound detects a very low heart rate, called embryonic bradycardia, the rate of miscarriage is significantly higher. If embryonic bradycardia is identified during your ultrasound appointment, you will likely be asked to return in about a week to repeat the test.

To Determine How Far Along You Are in Your Pregnancy

An ultrasound can accurately measure how many weeks pregnant you are. You can’t count on using only menstrual dates for accuracy because many women experience period-like bleeding while they are pregnant.

If your pregnancy is unexpected, and you are still gathering information about how you will proceed, you will need to know how far along you are because your options will partly depend on that.

To Determine If You Have a Single Pregnancy or Multiple Pregnancy

An ultrasound can also give you a valuable indication that you might be carrying a single or multiple pregnancy.

Get the Answers You Deserve

If you have had a positive home pregnancy test or think you might be pregnant, contact our compassionate team at Willow Womens Center. We provide licensed professional medical care, including pregnancy testing and ultrasounds at no cost to you. Reach out today by calling 608-312-2025 or by using our online scheduler.

When Is an Ultrasound Most Beneficial?
When Is an Ultrasound Most Beneficial

You have just learned you are pregnant. You did not expect it, and you never thought you would be wrestling with such a big decision. Now what? Where do you start looking for resources and accurate, unbiased answers to your questions?

You do not have to navigate this journey alone. Willow Womens Center will help you find the answers to your questions. We will walk with you, one step at a time, amidst the tremendous stress of an unexpected pregnancy. One of those steps will be an ultrasound, provided by our licensed medical professionals at no cost.

What is an Ultrasound?

A pregnancy ultrasound is a safe medical test that creates images on a screen using sound waves. These images supply important facts to help you make informed decisions about an unexpected pregnancy.

Pregnancy ultrasounds can be transabdominal or transvaginal.

  • Transabdominal ultrasound

A transabdominal ultrasound is external. First, the ultrasound technician uses a warm gel that is placed on your abdomen. Then, they move a small handheld ultrasound transducer across the gel on your belly. The transducer painlessly transmits sound waves that create an image on a nearby screen.

  • Transvaginal ultrasound

A transvaginal ultrasound is internal and used most often earlier in pregnancy because it provides more accurate images when the fetus is smallest. When you have a transvaginal ultrasound, the ultrasound technician gently inserts a small tampon-like transducer inserted into your vagina.

The technician can glean the information needed in the same way as a transabdominal ultrasound by viewing images transmitted onto a computer screen.

Your ultrasound images are studied by a physician who will provide a final report. The information you receive from your ultrasound provides invaluable answers to questions that will help guide you as you decide about your unexpected pregnancy.

Why an Ultrasound?

You now know the details of having a pregnancy ultrasound, but why would you need one, especially if you are considering an abortion? We will answer that question next.

An ultrasound determines pregnancy viability, your conception date, gestational age, and if you have a multiple pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy viability

Most likely, you discovered you were pregnant by taking a home pregnancy test. A pregnancy test lets you know that the hCG pregnancy hormone was detected in your urine, but it does not tell you if your pregnancy is viable — or healthy. You can have a positive pregnancy test along with a nonviable pregnancy.

A nonviable pregnancy has no likelihood of surviving. This can happen if the pregnancy has implanted outside of the uterus (i.e., an ectopic pregnancy) or if no fetal heartbeat is detected. Why would you want to know this? Because up to 25% of known pregnancies are nonviable and end in miscarriage, and if your pregnancy is nonviable, it changes the options available to you when your pregnancy is unintended.

To summarize, an ultrasound is an essential follow-up step after you have a positive pregnancy test because a pregnancy test alone does not confirm a viable pregnancy — only an ultrasound will tell you if your pregnancy is viable or not. And this is crucial information to have before making a decision about an unexpected pregnancy.

  • Conception date and gestational age

An ultrasound also determines an accurate date of conception. That means when you became pregnant and informs you about how far along you are in your pregnancy.

If your pregnancy is unexpected, and you are considering abortion, this information is particularly important to have since different options are available to you depending on gestational age (how many weeks pregnant you are). So knowing what stage of pregnancy you are in is critical for you to make an educated decision.

  • Multiple pregnancy

About 1 in every 250 natural pregnancies are with twins; that is information you probably want to have. After a positive pregnancy test, an ultrasound can tell if you have a multiple pregnancy.

Ultrasound Timing

Now that we have looked at what an ultrasound is and why it is essential to follow up your pregnancy test with an ultrasound, we can discuss timing. When is an ultrasound most beneficial?

A pregnancy ultrasound should be performed after it has been six weeks since the first day of your last period. This ensures that your pregnancy is far enough along to provide accurate and valuable information.

If you have an ultrasound less than six weeks after the first day of your last period, it can lead to confusion. Sometimes, even if you have a viable pregnancy, the ultrasound does not detect it before six weeks. When this happens, it can increase your anxiety as it leaves you wondering.

If you are early in your pregnancy and the ultrasound is inconclusive, meaning your healthcare provider cannot determine if the pregnancy is viable or not, you can make an appointment in another week or two for a follow-up ultrasound.

There are several reasons why a viable pregnancy would not be detected on ultrasound:

  • The pregnancy is too early to detect
  • Conception occurred later in your menstrual cycle
  • Mistaken last missed period date
  • Larger abdomen
  • Tipped uterus

The last thing you need right now is to add to your stress by having to face more uncertainty and waiting after an inconclusive ultrasound. So, be sure to schedule your pregnancy ultrasound appointment at least six weeks or longer after the first day of your last period when the ultrasound is most beneficial.

Rest assured that waiting six weeks will not limit your options for an unintended pregnancy in any way. You will still have the same choices available to you, but you will have more accurate information to make your choices with.

Get Reliable Support

Call (608) 312-2025, or make a confidential appointment online with Willow Womens Center today. We understand that you can feel bombarded with information, facts, and conflicting advice when you are facing an unexpected pregnancy.

Our compassionate advocates and licensed medical professionals are available to answer your questions in a judgment-free environment. We are committed to empowering you, so you can feel good about making an informed decision.

Supporting Youth With Challenging Pasts Parenting Class

Despite our best efforts, we can’t always protect those in our care from experiencing trauma. Children who witness domestic violence, lose a loved one suddenly or violently, live through a national disaster or terrorist attack, or who experience other forms of trauma may have lasting effects that require thoughtful and informed parenting approaches. Raising a child who has been impacted by trauma can make it scary to think about having another child – and especially about parenting again. The more you know about the impact of adverse events on child development and appropriate parental interventions, the easier it becomes to achieve peace in your home and prepare your child for a successful and fulfilling life. Willow Womens Center empowers all those who play a role in the lives of youth who have experienced adversity to provide the support and advice they need through their completely free Supporting Youth with Challenging Pasts class.

Supporting Youth with Challenging Pasts Class

Love and Logic: Adults Supporting Youth with Challenging Pasts® is designed to provide parents (including foster and adoptive parents), teachers, psychologists, and counselors with the tools they need to understand the effects of trauma on youth, meet the needs of children who have experienced challenging and painful situations, and care for themselves as they do so.

Caring for children who have experienced trauma can be especially challenging. In fact, the approaches that work with a child who hasn’t experienced trauma may not be well-received by a child who has, leaving the child feeling unsupported and struggling and you overwhelmed and feeling like a failure. The result is often defiance, power struggle, conflict, and in many cases, serious long-term consequences. For many parents, the thought of having more children is overwhelming until they really understand the role trauma has played in the difficulties they and their child have faced and they have the tools they need to overcome those challenges together.

With a better understanding of how these children think and behave and what kind of support they need from the adults in their lives, you can care for them in a way that reduces their suffering and encourages their emotional health and long-term success. When you take the Supporting Youth with Challenging Pasts class at Willow Womens Center, you can expect to learn:

  • How trauma impacts social, emotional, and behavioral development
  • How to deal with unhealthy behaviors like defiance with love and empathy – in a way that works and teaches responsibility and natural consequences
  • The importance of empathy (versus sympathy) and how to demonstrate it in your interactions
  • How to set limits to prevent power struggles and develop healthy boundaries
  • Social and emotional barriers to learning and how you can help
  • How to empower children toward success in life: building self-competence, identifying strengths, learning responsibility, and more

Contact Us Today

What can Affect a Child’s Mental Health?

It’s a common misconception that only foster and adoptive parents have children with challenging pasts. The truth is that children born into loving homes can experience adversity, too. All parents can find themselves raising a child who has experienced trauma or who is facing mental health challenges.

Situations that can affect a child’s mental health include:

  • surviving a life-threatening illness or accident
  • being abused physically, sexually, or psychologically in any setting
  • losing a loved one violently or suddenly
  • neglect or even poverty – not having their basic needs met
  • living in a country in active war or escaping as a refugee
  • attachment problems due to postpartum depression, an absent parent, or other issues
  • divorce or the sudden departure of a parent
  • bullying at school or in other settings

This list is not exhaustive; other factors can affect a child’s mental health as well. No family is immune from mental health challenges.

What is the Most Compelling Reason to Take Parenting Classes?

Parenting classes give you the tools, resources, and support you need to be the best parent you can be. Whether you grew up with parents who were great role models or no role model at all, parenting is challenging. It looks easy from the armchair but it’s not black and white in practice. The single most impactful step you can take to up your game is to prepare yourself by learning how children think and behave, what they need from the adults in their lives, and how you can provide it for them in a way that offers both love and the lessons they need to lead happy, successful lives. Parents who have taken a parenting class:

  • are more competent, effective, and satisfied
  • have higher self-esteem
  • practice positive parenting practices like planned discipline and positive language
  • have more social connections with other parents who can provide support
  • notice improvement in the behavior of their children (sharing and empathy, for example)
  • have better interactions with their children
  • see short-term improvements in their own mental health
  • are at lower risk of abusing their children or using corporal punishment

Furthermore, parents of children with challenging pasts simply cannot navigate it alone. Parenting these children requires a support network and a strong understanding of the lasting impact of trauma and the most successful approaches to parenting through trauma.

Willow Womens Center Classes and Services

Willow Womens Center offers several classes for parents and other adults who play a role in the lives of children. Whetheryou have just learned that you are pregnant and you are trying to make a decision or you already have children at home, consider enrolling in one of the parenting classes at Willow Womens Center. Meet other parents who are facing some of the same challenges as you, get insight into why your children think and behave the way they do, and learn how to stop the power struggle and achieve peace in your home. Willow Womens Center is located in Beloit, WI, and offers confidential pregnancy testing and counseling, STD screening, ultrasounds, and free parenting classes. You can schedule an appointment online with our compassionate team today.

Early Childhood Parenting Class in Beloit, WI

Finding out that you are pregnant when you least expect it can be scary. Among questions such as, “Can I afford this?” and, “Do I want to be a parent right now?” you may wonder “Do I know how to be a parent right now?” At Willow Womens Center, we aim to remove barriers to parenthood so that when you are faced with those decisions, you can make the most empowered, informed decision possible. One of the ways we remove those barriers is by offering no-cost parenting classes designed to give advice and teach the skills new parents need to be successful. After attending one of these free classes, parents feel much more confident in their ability to raise a child who will lead a happy, successful life of their own. Then, when you have all the tools and resources you need, you can focus on making a decision on the pregnancy without all those barriers in the way.

Early Childhood Class

Early Childhood Parenting Made Fun® teaches parents of children ages birth through six how to:

  • create an environment at home that encourages responsibility, academic achievement, and resiliency
  • parent through challenging behaviors
  • set healthy limits without fights and power struggles
  • use natural consequences rather than punishment to teach responsibility and character
  • teach their children how to solve problems
  • prepare their children to resist dangerous behaviors like violence, drugs, and alcohol as they get older

The class uses a combination of readings, videos, and group discussions and exercises and offers parents and expecting parents an opportunity to practice each skill as they learn it. It also gives them an opportunity to hear from and connect with other parents in similar situations, which can help them build a support network and feel less alone as they face the challenges of parenting young children.

After taking this class, you will be well prepared to avoid arguments, handle meltdowns, set limits without getting angry, and respond to misbehavior. You will have a better understanding of how children think, why they behave the way they do, and how your response affects the outcome of every situation. Most importantly, you will have the tools and resources you need to encourage the behaviors you want, while creating a safe place where your child feels loved and supported.

Contact Us Today

How Effective are Parenting Classes?

Studies have shown that parenting classes are effective in both improving the well-being of parents and improving outcomes for children. Classes are effective whether you take them when you learn that you are expecting, after your children are born, or even when their behavior is already veering off course. It is never too late to invest in your own growth as a parent.

At Willow Womens Center, we know that parenting classes remove only one barrier for men and women facing unplanned pregnancy, and other support is needed for those who choose to move forward with pregnancy and parenting. We partner with other agencies to ensure families have the long-term tools and resources they need to be successful. Those tools and resources might include help with finances, budgeting, housing, health insurance, mental health, domestic violence, basic supplies, and more.

Why is Parenting Education Important?

Very few of us are born with the skills we need to parent children through all ages and stages. Parenting is easiest when we have a variety of tools in our toolbox to parent through common challenges in a healthy way. Proven benefits of parenting education:

  • Decreases the risk of child abuse. Parenting classes help you learn how to prevent situations from escalating and how to issue natural consequences instead of punishments.
  • Improves parental self-esteem. Parents who have taken parenting classes are more competent parents, better able to navigate the challenges that accompany raising children, and their self-esteem grows as a result.
  • Improves the behavior of your child. The children of parents who have taken classes are more likely to engage in positive behaviors such as sharing and empathy, and less likely to engage in negative behaviors such as aggression.
  • Improves your interactions with your child. Parenting classes can help you better understand your child, communicate with your child, and connect with your child.
  • Empowers you to apply positive parenting practices. When you are equipped with the education you need, you will be more likely to nurture your child using routines, positive language, and planned discipline.
  • Helps connect parents. Parenting classes provide an opportunity for parents to build relationships with one another, forming a network of friendship and support.
  • Improves parental mental health. Parents who have the education they need to be successful in raising children experience reduced anxiety and depression.

Parenting classes can benefit everyone, but they are especially beneficial for those who haven’t seen successful parenting in their own life story. If you grew up in a home with ineffective parenting and you have faced challenges and difficult emotions because of it, parenting classes can help you feel more empowered to break the cycle and give your children the comfort, safety, and support they need to lead healthy, happy lives into adulthood.

Willow Womens Center Classes and Services

Do you think you might be pregnant? Willow Womens Center can help. We offer pregnancy tests, confirmation ultrasounds, pregnancy options counseling (adoption, abortion, parenting), testing for sexually transmitted infections, free parenting classes, and referrals to other providers and agencies. We serve as a first point of contact for women and their partners facing an unplanned pregnancy, providing unbiased, compassionate support that promotes your health and well-being and an informed, educated decision that you feel comfortable with in the future. You can schedule an appointment today with full confidence that we will safeguard your private information and provide judgment-free care from the moment you connect with us. We know how overwhelming an unplanned pregnancy can be, and our only goal is to serve as an ally and a support for you as you work through these critical next steps in your journey.

Could You Be Further Along in Pregnancy Than You Think?
can you be further along in pregnancy than you think

Trying to determine when you are due and whether that due date is correct, can be challenging, especially if you feel “bigger” than you did with previous pregnancies or you are measuring ahead during your appointments. This blog post explores signs that your due date might be off, factors that can influence an inaccurate due date, and how to estimate your due date based on your menstrual cycle.

Signs Your Due Date Is Off

If you don’t know the first date of your last menstrual period, you don’t know your average cycle length, or you have mistaken bleeding during pregnancy for menstruation, your assumed due date can be inaccurate. Some of the most common signs that your due date might be off are:

  • your ultrasound-predicted due date is more than a week from your menstrual-cycle due date
  • your fundal height is off, especially if it is off by more than 3 cm
  • your due date was determined by fetal Doppler or an ultrasound in the second or third trimester; these are less accurate ways to estimate the due date.

It is important to rely on the expertise of your OBGYN or other physician to help you understand how your due date was calculated, what outliers like a fundal height that is measuring ahead might mean for you (fundal height is the distance from the pubic bone to the top of the uterus measured in centimeters), and what you can expect when it comes to gestational length. Ultrasound-determined due dates are most accurate during the first trimester, and measuring ‘ahead’ doesn’t result in a changed due date in most cases.

In short, it is common to deliver a few weeks before to one week after your due date, and true due date changes are less common and should be made by a provider based on all of the information they have available to them.

Influencing Factors

A number of studies have evaluated average gestation length as it relates to different factors, like age, race, pregnancy history, and more. Here’s what those studies have revealed:

  • length of gestation increases with maternal age, so mothers who are under 25 are likely to have shorter pregnancies than women who are over 25, for example
  • length of gestation is longer for women with higher birth weights themselves, i.e. women who weighed more at birth will carry a pregnancy longer on average than women who weighed less at birth
  • women with longer implantation periods also have longer pregnancies
  • smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or both increase the risk of preterm birth and shorten gestation overall
  • black women have shorter pregnancies than white women by 5 days on average
  • pregnancies with male fetuses are longer on average than pregnancies with female fetuses
  • gestation decreases as the number of fetuses increases; i.e. singleton pregnancies are longer on average than twin pregnancies and length continues to decrease as the number of fetuses increases

While all of these factors can influence how long you can expect to be pregnant, your due date will remain the same. That means that even if you and your provider suspect that you will deliver early or late, your due date won’t be adjusted to account for that – it will remain at 40 weeks past the first day of your last menstrual period.

How to Estimate An Accurate Due Date

First, it is important to note that your due date is simply an estimate; it can help you plan and prepare and help you and your doctors make decisions in the case of early delivery or complications, but it cannot predict exactly when you will go into labor. Your due date is typically set for 40 weeks after the first day of your last menstrual period, and most women deliver sometime after 37 weeks and before 41 weeks.

Tracking your periods can help you estimate an accurate due date. To estimate your own due date:

  1. Identify the first date of your last normal menstrual period. Some women mistake bleeding during pregnancy for their menstrual period and don’t realize they are pregnant, so it is important to reflect on whether the period was as heavy, as long, and as uncomfortable as it has typically been in the past. If you can’t remember or don’t keep track of your menstrual cycle, sometimes it can be helpful to think about where you were at or what you were doing when it started and then cross-reference your calendar.
  2. Add 40 weeks or 280 days. There are a variety of free pregnancy due date calculators online, like this one from the American Pregnancy Association, that will do the math for you so you don’t have to count it out yourself.

Then, you can calculate how many weeks or months pregnant you are at any given time, using these formulas:

  • Number of weeks pregnant: take the number of days that have passed since the first day of your last menstrual period divided by 7
  • Number of months pregnant: take the number of days that have passed since the first day of your last menstrual period divided by 30

Keep in mind that you will be two weeks further along in your pregnancy than you might think; for example, if you had sex and conceived two weeks ago, and you have a 28 day cycle, then you are actually four weeks pregnant.

Getting Help for an Unexpected Pregnancy

If you think you might be pregnant and are weighing your options, scheduling an early pregnancy test and ultrasound is one reliable way to estimate your due date when you don’t know the first day of your last menstrual period. Early knowledge of pregnancy is key to ensuring a healthy lifestyle, adequate nutrition, and time to explore options, especially in the case of an unexpected or surprise pregnancy. Willow Womens Center offers pregnancy testing, pregnancy options counseling, and ultrasound for women who test positive in our office. Ultrasounds are most productive if you are approximately 6 weeks from your last menstrual period. If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, schedule your confidential visit at  Willow Womens Center today.